Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Shirley - Charlotte Bronte
I knew literally nothing about this book before picking it up about a month ago. Except, you know, that it was Charlotte Bronte, and therefore certain to be pretty damned fabulous. And ultimately, I did really like the book. But it was a long, slow road to get there.
Shirley isn't so much the story of the titular character as it is the story of a small community in Yorkshire. The book opens with a group of characters who are ultimately quite insignificant to the story, and it can be a little confusing to spend the first few chapters focusing on characters that are essentially meaningless.
It's kind of a difficult book to review. At times, it very much reminded me of North and South. I mean, it's set in the north. A mill is involved. The mill owner clashes with his employees. One of the major female characters is Miss Helstone. You know, that place where Margaret Hale grew up and totally idolised in North and South? Yeah.
It wasn't necessarily a problem for me. I mean, I adore North and South. So something that felt a lot like North and South was always going to be a win for me. But I *did* spend chunks of time wondering whether Gaskell and Bronte's friendship meant that when Gaskell was influenced by Bronte's work when creating one of my favourite books...
Really, I think my biggest problem with it? Was that the blurb on my copy mentions that the titular Shirley - who, incidentally, is a FABULOUS character. She's strong and fierce and independent, and she's responsible for basically every woman who's ever been named Shirley - is in love with Robert's brother. Except that Robert's brother doesn't turn up until more than half way through the book. So I spent an awful lot of time being very confused about whether or not Robert's brother was actually going to turn up or whether the blurb was lying to me.
In short, it's full of glorious characters, and it's worth the effort even if it takes a little while to get your head around what's going on.
Twenty Classics Club books down, forty to go!